Civilian Gun Ownership is Essential in a World of Uncertainty and Scarcity

gun store counter

Store owner Bren Brown, stands with a display of handguns at Frontier Justice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

By Aaron Tao

A common joke in the American gun community goes something like this:

Q: Why do you carry a gun?

A: Because carrying a cop is too heavy.

This humorous quip should not detract from the fact that many individuals in the United States (including me) own and carry a firearm for purely pragmatic reasons. The simplest case for the right to keep and bear arms can be summarized in one sentence: You are ultimately responsible for your own safety and security.

This sobering pill can be difficult for many people to swallow but that’s reality. Evil exists in this world. Under the right circumstances, people can and will do unspeakable things to each other as any student of history or psychology will know. Those fortunate to live in gated communities and can afford armed security are often oblivious that most other people do not enjoy the same luxuries.

Many violent crimes take place and are over in a matter of seconds (and stopped in seconds that prevent the worst). As another popular saying goes, “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” In the United States, depending where you live, police response time ranges from nine minutes to over an hour. Right now, one in five New York police officers are currently out sick due to COVID-19.

Police in multiple states have announced they will no longer respond to theft, burglary, and break-ins. Given the current climate, it’s not unreasonable to assume police will take much longer to arrive, if they do at all, should someone dial 911.

Furthermore, Americans need to understand there is no legal obligation for the police to protect you, which is affirmed by the Supreme Court and multiple lower courts. (See Castle Rock v. Gonzales, Warren v. District of Columbia, and Lozito v. New York City). Should the police fail to arrive or protect you when needed, you can’t even sue for neglect.

Thus, given the legal and logistical realities, taking the initiative to protect yourself should be as sensible as any other proactive measure such as having a fire extinguisher in the home or jumper cables ready in the back of the car. Should disaster strike, preparedness will make all the difference in the world. Protecting your one and only life deserves no less preparation and investment, especially in our increasingly complex and uncertain world.

Americans are fortunate to live in a country with mostly stable institutions. But there are vivid examples when segments of society break down, many in not-too-distant memory. In widespread civil disturbances such as the 1992 LA riots or the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina, Florence, and Harvey, the authorities were overwhelmed and unscrupulous individuals took advantage of the chaos to prey on others.

Going by sheer numbers, almost all of us will encounter at least one black swan in our lifetime. The current COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath are already the most trying times on the lives and livelihoods of Americans since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

gun store sales

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Should an even deadlier natural or man-made catastrophe take place, if the authorities haven’t been incapacitated, displaced, or destroyed completely, whatever personnel and resources are left will be prioritized to protect high-ranking government officials, their inner-circle, and critical government facilities and infrastructure.

The economist Thomas Sowell reminds us, “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it.” Security also happens to be a scarce resource. There’s simply not enough boots on the ground that can guarantee all 300 million Americans will be protected at all times from all threats. In every emergency, tough decisions will have to be made. From what we know about past and present “continuity of government” plans, ruling elites will be evacuated to a secure bunker in some undisclosed location while John Q. Public will be left to fend for himself.

Every American schoolchild is taught that everyone is equal before the law. Given this fundamental axiom, it’s not unfair to demand that the average American citizen have access to the same means of security and protection that government officials—who are our servants, not overlords—insist on having for themselves (while using taxpayer money). Under the American political system, the right of self-defense cannot be limited to only a privileged few. No one, regardless of their socioeconomic status, can deny fundamental rights to others.

The right to life is closely intertwined with the right of self-preservation. John Locke, a major influence on the philosophical foundations of the US Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, described the right of self-preservation as a “fundamental law of nature” in his Second Treatise of Civil Government:

The state of war is a state of enmity and destruction: and therefore declaring by word or action, not a passionate and hasty, but a sedate settled design upon another man’s life, puts him in a state of war with him against whom he has declared such an intention, and so has exposed his life to the other’s power to be taken away by him, or any one that joins with him in his defence, and espouses his quarrel; it being reasonable and just, I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred: and one may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; because such men are not under the ties of the common-law of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.

The political philosophy of John Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers contributed a unique element to American political theory: Fundamental rights do not come from the government. Human beings possess them already simply by virtue of being free and that includes a pre-existing, natural right of self-defense and self-preservation. As the Declaration of Independence memorably emphasizes, these natural rights are “unalienable” which means they cannot be taken or given away. They are permanent and apply in all times and all places to all human beings, with or without the Second Amendment or any other statutory pronouncement.

Self-evident truths” and similar conclusions are found in other schools of thought. The ethical intuitionist philosopher Michael Huemer also highlights an interlocking relationship between the right of self-defense and the right to own a gun:

It is possible for a right to be both fundamental and derivative. Derivative rights are usually related to fundamental rights as means to the protection or enforcement of the latter, though this need not be the only way in which a right may be derivative. I claim that the right to own a gun is both fundamental and derivative; however, it is in its derivative aspect—as derived from the right of self-defense—that it is most important.

Even without the existence of absolute rights (which Huemer declines to acknowledge for guns or any other right), he nevertheless persuasively argues:

  1. There is a strong prima facie right to own a gun
  2. Prohibiting private gun ownership constitutes both a major interference in gun owners’ plans for their own lives as well as a significant violation of their right of self-defense

Using a memorable thought experiment, Huemer shows how gun control laws that prevent a person from accessing or exercising the means of self-defense is akin to a criminal accomplice who holds a victim down while the actual murderer carries out the foul deed. By preventing the victim from escaping or exercising his right to self-defense, the accomplice’s action is still “if not equivalent to murder, something close to murder in degree of wrongness, even though he neither kills nor injures the victim.” In a follow-up thought experiment, Huemer adds:

…except that the victim has a gun by the bed, which he would, if able, use to defend himself from the killer. As the killer enters the bedroom, the victim reaches for the gun. The accomplice grabs the gun and runs away, with the result that the killer then stabs his victim to death.

Most reasonable individuals will intuitively recognize what the accomplice did was morally wrong. In both scenarios, the accomplice’s actions purposely prevented the victim from defending himself. If gun control laws have the same effect, it logically follows that they are “about equally serious as a violation of the right of self-defense.”

Fortunately for Americans, most of us still have access to a wide range of choices when it comes to self-defense. While it is understandable to be reluctant to pick up a gun, it is worth mentioning alternatives such as martial arts, tasers, and pepper spray are often severely limited by range, efficiency, or effectiveness.

Even if she is proficient in martial arts (which requires years of training), a 5-foot, 100-pound woman will be overwhelmed if she faces multiple attackers who weigh twice as much. On the other hand, she can ably defend herself with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, which is a popular weapon for many Americans, including women, because of its light weight, low recoil, accuracy, reliability, ergonomics, and ease of customization to fit any shooter regardless of size and stature.

Compared to other options, firearms are the most practical and effective way for the average American to secure his or her life, liberty, and property. As I emphasized in a previous essay:

From the colonists winning independence from Great Britain to African-Americans vindicating their civil rights, the role of the gun is inseparable from American identity. The gun is the ultimate multipurpose tool that empowers its user with the means to put food on the table, as well as preserve one’s life, whether against common street criminals or government tyranny.

In these uncertain times, both the pragmatic and philosophical case for gun rights are as strong as ever.

Many Americans, especially minorities, have realized the need for self-protection in times of social upheaval and breakdown. It is unfortunate that it took a tragedy as extreme as the COVID-19 pandemic to remind people that we should never take peace, prosperity, and freedom for granted. But millions have now taken the first steps to defend themselves and their loved ones. They should know they are in good company.

Gun Save Life New Shooter Training

Courtesy Guns Save Life

From what I’ve witnessed firsthand and experienced to date, the American gun community is strongly supportive and always welcoming towards first-time gun owners and anyone remotely curious about firearms regardless of their background. (See our plethora of welcome and orientation videos for newcomers brought in by the recent gun-buying surge).

Our country’s gun culture and people’s civic virtue reinforce each other. In the spirit of Tocqueville, civil society has stepped up in the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrated exemplary acts of charity. It’s only natural that the gun community is also actively participating by sharing knowledge with their fellow Americans and ensuring new gun owners are comfortably onboarded.

I am confident these new gun owners will learn how to handle their weapons responsibly, discover the joys of shooting, and become future staunch defenders of the Second Amendment (and hopefully the rest of the Bill of Rights as well). Our past is full of inspiring examples of Americans emerging stronger and freer after overcoming crises that tear the fabric of society and test our ideals. In these “times that try men’s souls,” let us not forget the precious legacy bequeathed to us.
 

Aaron Tao is an entrepreneur and young professional working in Austin, TX. He holds an M.S. from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. from Case Western Reserve University. His other writings have been published by Areo Magazine, Quillette, and the Independent Institute. 

Follow him on Twitter.

This article was originally published on FEE.org and is reprinted with permission. Read the original article.

 

 

comments

  1. avatar Stateisevil says:

    It’s necessary but not sufficient. Proof is the Totalitarian USA. Sure, it could always be worse, but only a silly person or some boomer Hannity fan can say it’s the land of the free, home of the brave with a straight face.

    1. avatar Constitooshunal Skaller says:

      America is the land of the free, home of the incredibly stupid!

      1. avatar LifeSavor says:

        And where do you live?
        😉

        1. avatar Dude says:

          By the name, I’m guessing Martha’s Vineyard via D.C., Chicago, and Hawaii.

    2. avatar RGP says:

      Correctamundo, unfortunately. And of the people I know, some of the toughest talkers were first to knuckle under… some of them are still out there, alone, wandering about the roads, in their vehicles, wearing a mask and rubber gloves.

    3. avatar enuf says:

      Posts like yours are proof there is a small percentage of Americans (okay, maybe it’s not so small a percentage) with no comprehension of what a totalitarian government is. Our sloppy, chaotic, at times incompetent and arrogant bureaucracy is an insignificant bother compared to the former Soviet Union, East Germany, North Korea and other despotic regimes either historical or currently operating.

      No nation comes close to the USA in the protection of personal freedom. Many try, have some success, but always fall well short of what we have here.

      Not that we are without our troubles. Nothing and no one is ever perfect, we will always have a lot to do and the need for constant vigilance. That’s simply acknowledging human nature, the work and striving never end.

    4. avatar Archangel says:

      It’s the land of the free BECAUSE of the brave – and you’ve clearly never lived in a REAL totalitarian country – Demokratik People’s Republiks of Illinois and Kleptofornia are working hard to be totalitarian microcosms, but STILL nothing like the CCP or USSR

  2. avatar Prndll says:

    Certainly is the prettiest gun store owner I’ve seen.

    I completely agree with this article.

    1. avatar enuf says:

      Lots of good commentary in the post, agreed. I looked up that gun shop too, wish there was one that well figured out and designed near me.

      I posted info on Frontier Justice further down in the comments.

    2. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      Agree, that’s a nice gun shop. Only one that compares here is Palmetto State Armory. I rarely go there except in the winter time. We recently got a Sportsmans Warehouse locally, pretty wide selection.

  3. avatar anarchyst says:

    YOU are your own “first responder”, PERIOD…

    1. avatar eagle10 says:

      Amen to that!

    2. avatar enuf says:

      True that. There is no one more “First Responder” than the homeowner waking up to a crash at the kitchen door in the dark of night!

      All police, fire and emergency medical are Second Responders. Not knocking them, there are many fine people in those ranks (I’ve been in the EMS/FD/Rescue myself, years back). But their potential to be righ there in the instant of need is rare as can be.

  4. avatar Randy Jones says:

    I hate to complain about an otherwise decent article, but why doesn’t the gun shops around here have owners that look that good? Somehow that’s just wrong. Maybe I should move to Missouri.

    I’m not overly confident with the line,; “I am confident these new gun owners will learn how to handle their weapons responsibly, discover the joys of shooting, and become future staunch defenders of the Second Amendment”. There are a lot of current gun owners that haven’t gotten up to speed with that. But it does remind us of the responsibility we have to help them along with that journey.

    1. avatar LifeSavor says:

      Randy,

      So, New Gun Owner (NGO) is excited about his/her new purchase. Buys some range time. Realizes just how elusive those stationary paper targets can be. Says to self “How can I defend my family when I am losing shootouts with a paper target.”

      NGO watches videos, buys some training, realizes there is more to being a gun-owner than owning a gun.

      NGO is evolving, spending time with written and video material produced by gun people; getting trained by gun people. Learning just how interesting, smart, and good-looking gun people are. NGO is realizing he/she is becoming a gun person.

      1. avatar Randy Jones says:

        Some will, but I’d bet the majority will not. In the last CCDW class I took, one guy bought in a gun that looked like it lived in a chicken coop. He’d be around guns his whole life, the class was just a formality to him, it was required for he license. Another older gent brought in a small revolver, which he instructor cleaned for him while teaching the class and then bought the old half box of ammo he brought with him because the lead was white and the brass was turning green. A new guy who had bought his gun a couple of months before still had the cards for range time in the bag, he hadn’t even opened the gun box except at the store, the gun hadn’t even been wiped down from the shipping oil. One guy didn’t own a gun, he borrow one from the range. I had a co-worker buy a gun for home defense and he has yet to fire it once, five years since I showed him how to clean it and he has yet to put the first round through the barrel, or reclean it. Of course then there’s another shooter I know that loves Glocks because you strip them and put them in the dishwasher, then blow dry them. But he does shoot and his Glocks function. This could go on and on. We all know and have met people like this.

        So if I seem the least bit negative about some new gun owners actually learning to use their firearms and become an active part f the 2A community, there are reasons for it.

        1. avatar LifeSavor says:

          Randy,

          Some of those stories made me laugh. I get your point. No argument.

  5. avatar LifeSavor says:

    Simply owning a gun changes your thinking. Those of us who grew up in gun-free households have gone through an evolution that led to purchasing a gun, learning safe handling/use of guns, discovering how much fun practicing is, deciding to carry, deciding to carry with one in the chamber, then deciding we need more guns.

    That personal growth, included learning the firearms laws, getting interested in the politics around guns, and more vividly understanding the vision upon which our Constitution shines.

    When you bring that first weapon home, you have to consider where to stage it for home defense. So you read about that. Child safety is part of that conversation, so, you read about that. You realize that mental preparedness is critical to home defense, so you read about that. You purchase training.

    All this time, you are being influenced by gun people; you are evolving; becoming a better you.

    All because you made that decision to be your family’s own first responder.

    Nicely done!

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      In regards to the ‘child safety’ aspect, take children shooting to remove the mystery and build familiarity with firearms. A child who is taught – and entrusted with – firearms by a respected and engaged adult will be much more likely to grow into a responsible gun handler him/herself.

      1. avatar LifeSavor says:

        Haz,

        Absolutely.

        👏 👍

      2. avatar Geoff "Guns. LOTS of guns..." PR says:

        The parents that refuse to let their children own or touch toy guns are dangerous. That teaches the kid a gun is “forbidden fruit” and very desirous to hold and own. And when given the opportunity to in an unsafe manner later, life-changing tragedy can result…

        1. avatar LifeSavor says:

          Geoff……

          Wisdom.

        2. avatar Blunder says:

          ‘Forbidden Fruit’ is the nickname Geoff goes by down at the local men’s only bath house.

        3. avatar Dude says:

          When I gave my son his first nerf gun, I explained to him to never even point it at his little sister. No joke. Little sis is sitting in her high chair, and the very first shot he took, hit her right in the face. I’m not sure if he was a terrible shot or a great shot.

  6. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    As mentioned in the article, many LE depts chose to reduce their response to calls or certain crimes. Regarding all the debates in which the argument is made that “the cops won’t come” if/when a large scale tragedy strikes or if social unrest grows out of hand, let this be a reminder that you cannot fully rely on others to come to your aid. LEOs are human beings like the rest of us and will behave as such. Even if we allow that 20% are truly dedicated, heroic individuals who will remain true to their oaths and sense of honor& duty, that still leaves a large majority who will likely fall back to protect their own interests first. We’ve already seen this to varying degrees in the L.A. Riots, Katrina, and now COVID.

    To those LEOs who will act honorably, thank you in advance.

  7. avatar Texican says:

    There are a lot of new gun owners due to this idea; a neo-conservative is “a liberal who has been mugged by reality”. Millions of people have had their eyes opened to reality and they’ve done the only wise and logical act. They’ve armed up. If you factor out gang violence caused by the war on certain drugs, the U.S. is the safest country in the world. This has led to a false sense of security for millions of Americans. That delusion has been abruptly shattered. Once the panic subsides, hopefully, these new gun owners will educate themselves further on the principles of freedom and reject any philosophy that requires the surrender of any freedom no matter how alluring it might be.

  8. avatar enuf says:

    I looked up the lady in the fluffy pink sweater, and her gun shop. This looks like a heck of a layout. The retired banker and his wife that put it all together left nothing out that I can see.

    Kansas City Gun Store Courts Women Shoppers With ‘Nordstrom’ Approach
    https://www.kcur.org/community/2018-12-18/kansas-city-gun-store-courts-women-shoppers-with-nordstrom-approach

    Gun store courts women with department store approach
    https://www.amarillo.com/news/20181226/gun-store-courts-women-with-department-store-approach?template=ampart

    https://frontier-justice.com/

    Lee’s Summit, Missouri Store
    800 NE Jones Industrial Drive
    Lee’s Summit, MO 64064
    816-336-2600

    Kansas City, Kansas Store
    10000 France Family Drive
    Kansas City, KS 66111
    913-215-9177

    https://www.facebook.com/frontierjusticemo
    https://www.youtube.com/user/FrontierJustice14

    Our Story: Mike and Bren Brown, Owners, Frontier Justice

    1. avatar Bucephalus says:

      This is a great place. As a member, I am there making use of the range on a regular basis. The people there are friendly and approachable and the product pricing is fair. Stu Clark, the in-house gunsmith is usually available for advice and conversation, not to mention that he is a really good smith. For any in the area, I highly recommend them.

  9. avatar Bemused Berserker says:

    All of us, at one time in our life were New Gun Owners. Whether as a child, a teen or a young ( or not so young) adult, we experienced holding a gun, whether rifle, shotgun or pistol, for the very first time. A percentage of us grew up in gun owning families, which has some clear and distinct advantages over the later in life new gun owner, but it also gives some of us a jaded view of new gun ownership. I’ve been guilty of holding this jaded view too, from time to time. I try now, not to.
    Gun Ownership, Responsibility and Safety are a life long learning process. The basics though, have never changed. They apply now, just as much as they applied when firearms first began to be developed. Sure, it took several hundred years and a hell of a lot of negligent discharges before the rules were codified by authors. As technology changed from the flashpan to the primer, the readiness state of firearms changed as well. We’re a long way from the first modern cartridge/firearm development in the late 19th Century, but the rules applied long before that last huge step in firearm history.
    It’s up to us, the old guard, to pass the knowledge down to the new gun owners. Some will be receptive to whatever information, and some, having watched YouTube, will think they know it all already. The latter tend to irritate everyone, but they need instruction just as much (and oftentimes more so) than the blank slate NGO. Building safe, confidant and competent Gun Owners, like anything worthwhile, takes time, repetition and a willingness to learn. Can we afford to give them anything less?
    Some may agree with me, just as some won’t, and that’s OK, because it’s up to the individual to decide whether or not to mentor the new gun owners.

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